THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH: Good Works
All Christians, both men and women, are to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are to be zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). We are to be ready to every good work (Titus 3:1). We are to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We read of such a woman in Acts 9:36-42. “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds, which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydia was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments, which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.” This text reminds me of the brevity of life. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). “Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:13-14). “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). A woman by the name of Dorcas died. Her illness was fatal (Lockyer 47).
Dorcas lived at Joppa (Acts 9:36). Joppa was on the Mediterranean Coast, some ten miles from Lydda (Acts 9:38). “Dorcas implies ‘the female of a roebuck, a gazelle’; an emblem of beauty. Dorcas is the first Greek name of a female in the New Testament, its Hebrew equivalent being Tabitha” (Lockyer 46). She is called a “certain disciple” (Acts 9:36). Is it not the case then that she was a Christian, inasmuch that the “disciple were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). She also would have been observant of the Lord’s Supper since “the disciples came together to break bread” each Lord’s Day (Acts 28:7). Also, Dorcas was one faithful to the word. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed (John 8:31). She was a fruitful disciple. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples indeed” (John 15:8). Without question she had counted the cost of being a disciple. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).
Luke records that this “certain disciple” was “full of good works and alms deeds which she did” (Acts 9:36) (Lockyer 47). Her good work was done with a sewing pedal (Acts 9:39) (Lockyer 47). After her death, Peter came to the upper room where she lay. Widows surrounded her lifeless form, showing the garments and coats Dorcas made while she was alive.
If there is a message from Dorcas to her sisters in the twenty-first century it is this: There is work for all women in the church today. A woman can do anything a man can do in the work and worship of the Lord except one thing. She cannot usurp authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:12). Dorcas practiced “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). She had compassion for the poor and needy (Psalms 41:1-3). Some of the hardest workers in the church have been and continue to be women (Philemon 4:3).
There is so much women have to offer today. Mac Layton, in his book “How To Build A Great Church,” has listed several things Christian women can do effectively. They are: (1) Christian women can lead in magnificent work of keeping unity in the church. (2) Christian women can do a great work in teaching the children. (3) They can lead in hospital visitation. (4) Christian women lead in the teaching of Christian women (Titus 2:3-5). (5) Christian women can lead the way in visitation and soul winning (Acts 18:2,18, 26). (6) Christian women can lead in hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). (7) Christian women can lead the way in greeting at the church building. (8) Christian women can lead in encouragement. Thank God for Christian women like Dorcas who work for the Lord.
Dorcas left a monument of her life. When she died the widows showed the “coats and garments” she made for them (Acts 9:39). Hers was a monument of good works. How shall we be remembered? For our good works? For doing our best (Mark 14:8)? For our compassion and concern? For our meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4)?
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
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